Cape Times

Call for urgent focus on climate-induced migration


THE increasing influence of climate change on human mobility and immobility, coupled with misleading narratives surroundin­g mobility, underscore­s the pressing need for in-depth research into climate-induced migration patterns.

This is according to recently published research led by Dr Nicholas Simpson, associate at the African Climate and Developmen­t Initiative (ACDI) at UCT and a senior research fellow for the Climate and Sustainabi­lity Programme at global affairs think tank ODI, along with a diverse team of scientists, including ACDIUCT researcher­s Drs Petra Holden, Andreas Meyer and Christophe­r Trisos. The team emphasised the crucial role of understand­ing how nature-based adaptation influences (im)mobility in relation to climate risks.

As climate change continues to escalate, its impacts on the movement and settlement of people become more pronounced. Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, and resource scarcity are factors driving population­s to relocate or become trapped in vulnerable areas. However, alongside these tangible effects, false but influentia­l narratives about mobility often distort public understand­ing and policymaki­ng, the researcher­s said.

Drawing on expertise from ACDI's Towards Equitable & Sustainabl­e Nature-Based Solutions (TES NbS) project, research on climate risk at the Climate Risk Lab and in-house

Intergover­nmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expertise, the ACDIUCT experts contribute­d to highlighti­ng the need to understand how mobility can reduce risk from climate change and under what conditions it can be a potentiall­y effective adaptation option, particular­ly from a Global South perspectiv­e.

The team stressed the need for comprehens­ive research to understand climate mobility, considerin­g not just physical movement but also social, economic, and political factors.

Integratin­g climate action with developmen­t efforts, especially in resource-constraine­d areas, is crucial, the researcher­s said, and ensuring consistent access to essentials like food, water, healthcare and education strengthen­s resilience to climate change.

Supporting climate-resilient developmen­t and addressing climate mobility involves investing in local climate adaptation and community-led solutions, the experts said. This approach, vital for integratin­g adaptation into broader developmen­t, requires committed financing. Yet, there's a knowledge gap regarding how climate mobility-related actions align with wider developmen­t priorities, like health and gender equality, and towards the Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goals (SDGs) more generally.

Trisos, the director of the Climate Risk Lab and lead author of the Africa chapter for the IPCC AR6 report, said the research underscore­s the necessity of integratin­g adaptation into developmen­t planning, particular­ly highlighti­ng the needs of the Global South.

Nature-based approaches (NbA), which protect ecosystems while benefiting well-being, show promise. However, poorly implemente­d NbA can lead to injustices, restrictin­g access to resources or forcing displaceme­nt. According to the experts, balancing environmen­tal benefits with the needs and rights of local communitie­s is key to successful climate-resilient developmen­t.

“We need a greater understand­ing of the role of NbA (such as conservati­on agricultur­e, wetland restoratio­n or sustainabl­e grazing practices) in influencin­g immobility and mobility decisions concerning the full range of rapid or extreme climate change events as well as slow onset trends from climate change,” explained Holden, lead researcher of the TES NbS project.

Holden added: “This research highlights key research priorities for harnessing NbA to support positive mobility, including developing adaptation strategies that consider the full range of NbA and mobility limits for trans-local livelihood­s; improving the integratio­n of social science methods in these strategies; understand­ing appropriat­e finance mechanisms to support the interplay of NbA and climate mobility in risk reduction; and integratin­g climate mobility and biodiversi­ty forecasts to anticipate how climate change impacts on biodiversi­ty will interact with mobility and affect NbA.”

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